Kytami is one sassy badass violinist extremist
“I can play the fiddle like a badass.”
That’s the quote that fills up the wallpaper of local “violinistextremist” Kytami’s Twitter page.
And it’s true.
For anyone who’s ever seen the dynamic electric fiddler’s show, it’s obvious that Kytami is a no-holds-barred rocker, whose energy abounds on stage.
Although the words rocker and fiddle don’t always go hand-in-hand, Kytami is managing to make it a very memorable mashup.
“That’s my sound — it’s electronic, dance, heavy bass, elements of hip hop, fiddle and classical violin styles all mixed together.”
“No description really encompasses everything that is me,” she says. “All I know is that I always get a good response from my shows and that’s why I still do it — because of the response from the fans. I love getting on stage and playing in front of an audience — the bigger the better — for stages and audiences.”
Not only does she rock, but her music blends her classical training with her more cutting edge sensibilities, merging her experiences playing with indie rock, acoustic punk rock, dancehall/hip hop/electronic, metal and Bhangra-Celtic fusion groups, and more recently with a DJ.
“At one point, I was playing with five bands, all of different styles,” says Kytami.
She started playing violin at three years old, training at Vancouver’s Academy of Music until she was 17.
She moved to Whistler after high school to pursue her love of snowboarding, but it was there that she developed some of her signature musical style.
“I learned a lot after I left the academy,” says Kytami. “I started playing with bands in Whistler and this one guitar player would just throw songs at me — he was like the human jukebox — and I would have to make it up on the spot. I wouldn’t know which song he was going to play next so it really taught me how to improvise. And because I have a good ear from my classical training, I found that once I loosened up a little bit I was really good at it … I was snowboarding everyday, and I still love going, but somewhere along the way the music took over,” says Kytami.
Three years of jamming at an Irish pub also helped her develop her Celtic-style fiddling chops, which took her to her next venture — the internationally renowned award-winning Bhangra-Celtic fusion band Delhi 2 Dublin.
“I was a founder. I was there from the first show,” says Kytami, who played with the band for five years, co-writing two albums and touring extensively playing on the world stage (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Berlin and Dubai in 2010). Creative differences led to Kytami parting ways with the band at the end of 2010, leaving her to create the next incarnation of her act.
“I’ve always kept my own hip hop-electronic based thing going on the side, playing with a DJ or turntablist,” says Kytami. “But my focus has always been to play and write original music, because in Whistler I was playing a lot of traditional and cover songs and the interest in that faded fast for me. I had my own ideas of what I wanted to do and what kind of music I wanted to produce.”
So she decided to record an album.
“I focused on doing my own thing. I reached out to my contacts and told them I was still playing shows, even though I didn’t really know what I was going to do for my live show. I just launched myself solo and thought I’d make it up as I went,” she says with a laugh. She went to Toronto in spring 2011 to record her self-titled album, which was released in February.
“I’m glad I decided to release the album in 2012,” says Kytami. “2011 was such a transition year and I think the album reflects that. It’s a snapshot of where, musically, I’m at in life — all the phases I’ve been through. It’s a reflection of who I am.”
She worked with old friend and producer Steven Mek on the album, which ranges from violin electronica and drum and bass to downtempo and urban.
“I’ve been working with him so long. He understands me, my violin and my style. I went to Toronto to work with him and also just to get away. I didn’t want any distractions, I just wanted to buckle down and write.”
This is Kytami’s second solo album (her first was 2002’s Conflation), but the first she’s using her own vocals on.
“I was inspired to say something and I felt comfortable with Steve, where as I don’t know if I would have been as comfortable with another producer,” she says.
She put vocals on “2 Lions”, “Kytami Rocks” (rapping and singing), “Bass is High” and “Kiss and Tease” (inspired by Peaches).
She and Mek used a unique formula. “(We) would start the morning with Bailey’s and coffee, and end the evening with tequila and wine,” she says.
After returning from Toronto, Kytami focused on booking shows, both locally and across North America, in support of her new album. She says the support she gets in Victoria inspires her to stay, even if it is a small market.
“Something happened here that I think could have never happened in Vancouver — I feel supported, by the promoters, the scene, by the musicians that I’ve met. All these different styles of musicians that I’ve collaborated with and all the venues that have hired us to play. I’m so grateful and it means so much because of what I came through. I didn’t know if what I was doing was going to resonate with people or be relevant. For it to be going so well is amazing. I don’t take it for granted at all.”
Local concert promoter and radio DJ Dylan Willows caught Kytami’s show a few months ago and was so impressed that he made a slot in the lineup for her (and her DJ D Whiz) at the second annual Vancouver Island Cultural Festival (V.I.C. Fest) — right between the two headliners.
“I’m such a fan and so confident that people will respond so well that I’ve placed her between the two headliners, Vince Vaccaro and Current Swell,” says Willows, co-director (along with Misty Aitken) of Capital City Productions, which hosts the one-day music, art and booze festival at St. Ann’s Academy on Saturday, June 16.
“I’ve just never seen anybody with such presence on stage, such sass and attitude, and the skill she has on the fiddle is unlike anything I’ve seen. She plays it like an electric guitar — she’s like Slash.
“You can really see she’s put her time in. She’s from a world class band, toured the world and played massive stages — this isn’t her first kick at the can. She’s meant to be doing what she’s doing. And it’s really impressive to watch her jump around in those high heels.”
Kytami will also be playing the Empress Hotel’s Bengal Lounge, Sunday, June 17 with Georgia Murray (who she appeared with as part of Murray’s Band on the CBC reality show Cover Me Canada) at 8 p.m.
“Things like this festival are so important for the community,” says Kytami. “It supports and exposes what’s happening locally. We tend to think that everything is better that comes from far away, and it’s just not true. And it helps people to start thinking locally and makes Victoria stronger.” M
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